Brazil, officially the Federative Republic of Brazil, is the largest country in South America and in Latin America.
The connection between India and Brazil is five-century old.
The history dates back to the time when Portugal’s Pedro Alvares was on his way to India and was blown off course, only to discover Brazil in 1500.
He made Brazil a stop-over to finally reach Goa. This led to the Portuguese association between India and Brazil and the exchange of varied agricultural crops and cattle in the colonial times.
India and Brazil established diplomatic relations between India and Brazil in 1948. The long bilateral strategic partnership is based on a common global vision, shared democratic values, and a commitment to foster economic growth with social inclusion for the welfare of the people of both countries.
During the cold war, India and Brazil calibrated against the world order dictated by superpowers (US and USSR).
For example in 1967, both the countries condemned the idea of creating Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT).
In this context, Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro’s presence as chief guest for the Republic Day parade in 2020 is a booster dose to India’s relations with a prominent power and an opening to deepen India’s footprints in Latin America.
The relationship between India and Brazil is extensive, encompassing every significant aspect of interaction, and is visible at all three levels: bilateral, and plurilateral in forums like the IBSA, BRICS, G-20, and G-4, and in the larger multilateral arena like the UN, WTO, UNESCO, WIPO, etc.
Areas of Cooperation
The strategic partnership established in 2006 between Brazil and India has deepened, with both countries cooperating closely within BRICS, IBSA, G4, G20, and the wider multilateral context of the United Nations.
Brazil and India (along with Germany and Japan) jointly pursued aspirations of permanent seats in the UN Security Council and worked towards a multipolar world where large developing countries can frame global rules and democratise international institutions.
Both countries played a pivotal role as leaders of the Global South or South-South cooperation.
The Brazilian foreign policy of reciprocal multilateralism is in concurrence with India’s policy of strategic autonomy.
Brazil has become one of the most important trading partners of India in the entire LAC (Latin America and the Caribbean) region.
However, bilateral trade between the two countries stands at a dismal $8 billion.
In 2018 Indian investments in Brazil were around U.S.$ 6 billion and Brazilian investments in India are estimated at $ 1 billion.
In 2019-20, the bilateral trade was valued at US$ 7.04 billion with exports worth US$ 3.97 billion and imports worth US$ 3.07 billion.
Over the past two decades, India’s bilateral trade with Brazil has significantly increased.
The main items of exportfrom India to Brazil are diesel, organic chemicals, pharmaceutical products, man-made filaments, nuclear reactors, boilers, machinery and mechanical appliances, and textile products (synthetic filaments/fibers, cotton, apparel, accessories, etc.).
The main items of Brazilian exports to India were Petroleum products, mainly crude oil, cane sugar, copper ore, soya oil, and gold.
Agriculture, food processing and animal husbandry are other key focus areas for bilateral cooperation.
India-Brazil CEO Forum was constituted in 2012 and was re-christened as India-Brazil Business Leader’s Forum in January 2016.
MERCOSUR is a regional grouping comprising Brazil, Argentina, Uruguay and Paraguay. India signed a Preferential Trade Agreement (PTA) with MERCOSUR in 2004.
In 2018 Indian investments in Brazil were around $6 billion and Brazilian investments in India are estimated at $1 billion.
ONGC, Videocon, TCS, Wipro, Infosys, Cadilla, Mahindra, L&T etc have significant presence in Brazil. Brazilian companies in India include Marco Polo (automobiles), Vale (biggest mining company), Stefanini (IT), Gerdau (Steel).
ONGC Videsh is involved in hydrocarbon exploration in the Brazilian waters. It recently made a significant discovery of natural gas there.
Brazil has also joined India-led International Solar Alliance to give a push to renewable energy in the developing countries.
Brazil and India signed a bilateral ‘Defence Cooperation Agreement’in 2003 that calls for cooperation in defence-related matters, especially in the field of Research and Development, acquisition and logistic support between the two countries.
Under the framework of the agreement, a ‘Joint Defence Committee (JDC)’ has been set-up that meets at regular intervals.
Brazilian firearms company Taurus Armas SA signed a joint venture with Jindal Defence (part of O P Jindal Group) to produce and sell small arms in India. With an initial investment of US$ 5 million in a project that is to be developed in phases, the agreement proposes setting up a plant at Hisar (Haryana).
Indian and Brazilian Navies are also coordinating the technical aspects related to White Shipping Information through a data sharing agreement.
Space, Science and Tech
India and Brazil signed a framework agreement for peaceful use of outer space in 2004 as well an Agreement inter-institutional cooperation between the space agencies.
Minister Pontes witnessed the launch of Brazilian satellite Amazonia-1 at Satish Dhawan Space Center, Sriharikota. Amazonia-1 is the first Earth Observation satellite to be completely designed, integrated, tested and operated by Brazil.
Science and Tech:
The Agreement on S&T Cooperation between India and Brazil was signed on 12 September, 2006
Agriculture, food processing and animal husbandry are other key focus areas for bilateral cooperation.
In Brazil, there is enormous interest in India’s culture, religion, performing arts and philosophy.
Brazil has a strong community of Yoga and Ayurveda practitioners. The Brazilian Association of Ayurveda (ABRA) is a non-profit association with offices in 9 states of Brazil and has members all over Brazil.
Mahatma Gandhi is highly regarded in Brazil and the government and NGOs are trying to inculcate the philosophy of non-violence among students, youth and police.
President Bolsonaro attended theRepublic Parade in New Delhi in 2020.
The Indian community in Brazil is estimated to be around 5,000 people, with majority of them living in Sao Paulo, Rio de Janeiro and Manaus.
Relationship between India and Brazil has majorly remained stable. However, some minor issues have emerged lately.
Brazil has filed a complaint at the World Trade Organisation against New Delhi’s subsidies to sugarcane farmers.
Brazil is the largest producer and exporter of sugar after India and claims Indian subsidies are inconsistent with global trade rules.
Brazil already counts China as its number one trade partner. India is facing difficulty to compete with deep pockets of China.
China is the largest trading partner of Brazil; hence the competition is tough for India.
Though BRICS as a group has tremendous potential to grow, it has also received criticism for not having a common vision.
India and Brazil have developed divergence on climate change cooperation as India is committed to combating global warming while Brazil has rejected scientific studies on climate change.
The single most important hurdle in realising deeper cooperation is perhaps geography. Also, there is no direct air connectivity between the two countries.
People to people contact:
Contacts between the civil societies, researchers, scientists etc.that can act as a platform to further strengthen partnership among the two nations, is also scarce.
There are hardly any student exchange programmes or even collaborative scientific projects among the two. The tourist inflows to and from each country are meagre.
India-Brazil WTO dispute
India is the world’s leading producer of sugar while Brazil is the 2nd largest producer. However, Brazil’s sugar export of 21.26 MMT accounts for 45% of global sugar exports against India’s 2 % share as of 2018, as per the International Sugar Organization.
Brazil has alleged that India’s support (in the form of FRP by the Centre and SAP by the States) to the cane farmers exceeds the levels of domestic support allowed to India under the WTO’s Agriculture Agreement which is 10 % of the total output.
Brazil has also flagged the issue of India providing prohibited export subsidies.
India has maintained that the supports were not having a trade-distorting effect on the global sugar market and are intended to provide for and avoid the over-exploitation of 35 million vulnerable, resource-poor farmers in the country.
The Govt only announces Fair & Remunerative Price to be paid by Sugar mills to the farmers.
There are very few Public sector mills in the country and the Govt as such neither pay nor procure sugar from them.
Brazil is supported by Guatemala and Australia at the WTO.
WTO allows members to approach its Dispute Settlement Body in cases bilateral mechanism fails. In case the DSB rules against India, it will have the option to approach the Appellate Body of the DSM.
During the 2020 visit of Brazilian President to India, the two sides have decided to settle the dispute bilaterally, withdrawing the case from WTO.
There is plenty of room for cooperation between India and Brazil. For example, upgrading of Strategic Partnership Action Plan, along with the Bilateral Investment treaty, a Mutual Legal Assistance Agreement (MLAT) on crime, agreements on double taxation avoidance, bio-energy or ethanol production, cybersecurity, health, mining, oil and gas exploration and investment, and animal husbandry.
Operationalisation of Social Security Agreement (SSA) signed between Brazil and India in March 2017, will allow investments in each other’s pension funds, to help business processes and encourage the flow of investment.
Brazil is considered to have the oldest, most advanced and efficient ethanol programs in the world. At a time when India imports crude oil for around 4 million barrels per day, the alternate use of energy is the need of the hour.
India can collaborate with Brazil and ethanol’s substitution of fossil fuels to meet its energy needs.
The issues of health, universal education, infrastructure needs to be addressed. With the cooperation of IBSA and BRICS as major platforms, India and Brazil can come up with plans to deal with these issues.
In 2020, the Brazilian Ambassador agreed with the Indian government’s position that the 2019 Citizenship (Amendment) Act’s implementation and the revocation of Jammu and Kashmir’s special statusweredomestic matters for India.
India and Brazil are the emerging nations that hold similar principles on democracy, human rights, global governance and liberal strategies.
They are partners on the basis of trade relations and have a lot to learn from each other. With their uniting stance on various multilateral and plurilateral forums, the two countries are considered to be important for the creation of new world order.